Editor’s note: The Official Visit is a series that explores the best places to eat, drink and congregate at college football locales across the country. In Year 1, we visited five campuses.
The month of August was hectic, but it’s one that won’t be soon forgotten.
My colleague Ari Wasserman and I traveled to five different college campuses with one mission: give people a guide of what to do when going to games this fall. The place to eat? We found it. The place to drink? We tried it. Campus traditions? We lived them.
That’s what separates college athletics from pro sports. It’s about the people, the traditions and the places that make each one of these colleges — and the fans that support them — unique.
Next up is Georgia.
University of Georgia campus
We kicked off our Athens trip with a campus tour provided by our colleague Kennington Smith III, a 2017 UGA grad. He took us over to the Arch, the wrought-iron landmark at the entrance to North Campus. The pillars represent wisdom, justice and moderation, and students know not to walk under the Arch until they’ve earned their degree. We also visited Herty Field, the original on-campus venue for Georgia football games dating back to 1892, and rang the Chapel Bell, the traditional signal of any on- or off-field victory.
When we polled friends and colleagues about where to dine in Athens, they unanimously vouched for breakfast at Mama’s Boy. Glad we listened to them. Everything sounded good on the diner’s menu of made-from-scratch Southern eats. We went with biscuit breakfast sandwiches — lots of options there from bacon, egg and cheese to fried chicken — and shared their cinnamon bun with a sweet vanilla glaze. The Georgia Peach French Toast and biscuits and gravy looked excellent as well, and you can even get chocolate cake for breakfast.
One of the legendary stadiums in this sport and home of the back-to-back national champions. Fans haven’t watched their Bulldogs lose here in a long time, as Georgia has the nation’s longest active home winning streak at 20 games. Sanford Stadium has a capacity of 92,746 and is on a school-record run of 66 consecutive sellouts. We got a chance to walk along the hedges and saw Uga XI’s air-conditioned dog house as well as the mausoleum for previous Ugas. While on campus, we also chatted with Georgia starting center Sedrick Van Pran. The preseason All-American offered lots of good recommendations for our visit, including Bruxie, a comfort food café specializing in fried chicken and waffle sandwiches.
Cali N Tito’s
This authentic Latin spot is a favorite among locals, especially Georgia staffers because it’s located right across the street from the football office. Their menu features Cuban sandwiches, fish tacos, seafood, burritos, fried plantains and so much more. Seth Emerson, The Athletic’s Georgia beat writer, praised their arroz chaufa, a Peruvian fried rice dish with meat, eggs, scallions and sweet plantains.
Creature Comforts Brewing
If you love beer, you’ve gotta stop here. Creature Comforts opened in 2014 and counts three UGA grads among its co-founders. It quickly emerged as one of the fastest-growing breweries in the country thanks to its Tropicália IPA as well as year-round offerings like the Classic City Lager, Athena Berliner Weisse, Automatic Pale Ale and Bibo Pilsner. If you watch closely, you’ll notice Thor drinking their cans in “Avengers: Endgame.” We enjoyed trying ‘em all at their flagship taproom in downtown Athens.
Dawg Gone Good BBQ
Owner B.J. Hardy worked for 30 years as a hairdresser in Athens and initially tried a barbecue pop-up outside his salon before deciding it was time to open a restaurant that served all of his grandmother’s recipes in 2009. We shared the Big Dawg Meal, which came with a pound of pulled pork, a pound of chicken, a slab of ribs, two large sides (you need to get the mac and cheese) and a large dessert. Hardy told us to go with a pulled pork sandwich topped with coleslaw and his mustard and vinegar sauces, and he didn’t steer us wrong.
This historic building began as a YMCA back in 1889 and was converted into a concert hall in 1978. The theater was devastated by a fire in 2009 but was rebuilt, restored and has endured as an iconic standing-room-only venue for live music of all genres. It has been an especially important stage for Athens’ music scene and local bands like R.E.M., Widespread Panic, Drive-By Truckers and the B-52s. Georgia fans fill it up for home games, too. If you stop in, be sure to go up to their rooftop bar for a cold drink, good views and good vibes.
Jittery Joe’s Coffee
We did not film inside Jittery Joe’s during this episode, but they deserve a shoutout because their coffee kept us and our crew fueled throughout the visit. They’re the go-to coffee roasters if you’re visiting, with nine locations across Athens, and I made sure to grab a tin of their Georgia Bulldogs-themed Attack the Day dark roast to take home.
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(Top illustration: John Bradford for The Athletic; Photo: Scott Cunningham / Getty Images)